Every eight weeks I drive up to St. Joseph Minnesota to spend a couple of days at St. Bendedict's Monastery/St. John's Abbey. I still get the curious eyebrow glance when I tell people this, but I'm ok with that. I've been repeating this escapade since January and I am growing more familiar with the daily rhythms of the monastic life and in turn, I find that I want to live as they live.
4:15 a.m. comes awfully early, but that is the time I need to wake up if I want to make morning prayer at the monastery. This morning, just like all the other times I've come up here, I was met by SisiterCeceila in the Sacred Heart Chapel and together we walked into morning prayer. Something was a little different once we entered, the place was packed! Where did all the sisters come from? And they were as spunky, enthusiastic, and alert as women in their mid-70's to late 90's could be. It wasn't until later did I understand the cause of growth. Summer time is here! I joked with Sister Cecelia that the sisters come out of the woodwork with the summer sun; with a wink and a laugh she fully agreed.
Prayer time with the sisters, I think, is my favorite part. Everyday these faithful saints welcome the new day by singing with word of God. When I was younger I used to think that hymns were dry and lifeless, void of color and vibrancy. My grandparents attended a traditional Lutheran church that sung hymns and had all their prayers printed out. I would dissect the service, looking for any aspect that might carry the possibility of spontaneity. Every week I was disappointed. Same words, same structure, same robes, same prayer, same, same, same. Ugh. As a random, impulsive, and highly emotional woman, such deeply embedded structure is often the death of me; and was just as true when I was a kid as it is now. However, 20 years later, the structure of the monastic life is no longer the death of me, rather it is the very element that causes my heart to burn with desire. I want to echo their rhythms, their practices, their faithfulness.
There may have been 50 or 60 sisters in prayer this morning. In sweet unison we opened our lips to the Lord with prayer and praise. Morning, midday, evening prayer always begin with a cry to God to welcome His Spirit and position our hearts.
"O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. "
I thought to myself, how do I begin my days? When I'm at the Monastery it opens with prayer, praise, community, and the sharing of a meal. When I am at home however, that's a different story. The first thought that enters my mind is not a request for my lips to be opened so that my mouth can praise Christ. No. My first thought is to brush away morning mouth and then open my lips to drink in gallons of bold, dark coffee. And maybe then will I begin thinking about the Glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit... maybe.
This is why I come up here. The monastic way is not confined to those who have devoted their lives to an order, in this case, the Benedictine order. Rather the monastic way is a treasure to be sought after by all those who follow after Christ. How can the rest of the Church embrace the gorgeous rhythms found within the monastic community? The Benedictine community understands God's call to be hospitable, to live a life of prayer, to share in community, and to meet the needs of others through humble service. My desire is to learn from their ways and invite others into the journey.
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and every shall be, world without end, Amen."